Crescendo, p.49
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       Crescendo, p.49

         Part #2 of Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick
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Page 49

  “To lull you into a false sense of security? Yes. ”

  “And the blood oath?”

  “A spur-of-the-moment lie. Just to keep things interesting. ”

  “So basically you’re telling me nothing you’ve ever said to me was true. ”

  “Except the part about sacrificing you. I was dead serious about that. Enough talking. Let’s get on with this. ” Using the gun, he shoved me deeper into the fun house. The rough prod tipped me off balance, and I stepped sideways to catch my footing, landing on a section of floor that began undulating up and down.

  I felt Rixon grab for my wrist to steady me, only something went wrong. His hand slipped down over mine. I heard the soft thud of his body landing. The sound seemed to come from directly below. A thought brushed my mind—that he’d fall en down one of below. A thought brushed my mind—that he’d fall en down one of the many trapdoors rumored to be scattered throughout the fun house—but I didn’t stay around long enough to see if I’d guessed right.

  I bolted back the way we’d come, searching for the clown head. A figure sprang out in front of me, a light flashing overhead to ill uminate a blood-soaked ax wedged in a bearded pirate’s head. He leered at me a moment before his eyes rolled back in his head and the light faded.

  I drew several sharp breaths, telling myself it was pretend, but unable to steady myself as the floor quaked and shifted under my shoes. I went down on my knees, crawling over the grime and grit pressing into my palms, trying to calm my head, which seemed to tilt with the floors. I crawled for several feet, not wanting to stop moving long enough to let Rixon find a way out of the trapdoor.

  “Nora!” Rixon’s rough bark carried up behind me.

  I pulled myself up, using the walls to support me, but the walls were coated in slime that oozed onto my hands. Somewhere overhead, laughter boomed, tapering off to a cackle. I shook my hands hard to slough off the slime. Then I fished my way into the sheer blackness that lay ahead. I was lost. Lost, lost, lost.

  I jogged a few steps forward, rounded a turn, and squinted at the faint glow of orange light several yards down the path. It wasn’t the clown’s head, but I was drawn to the promise of light like a moth. When I reached the lantern, the tacky Hall oweenish light ill uminated the words TUNNEL of doom. I was standing on a boat dock. small plastic boats were parked nose-to-bumper, water from the canal lapping their sides.

  I heard footsteps on the path behind me. With no time to second-guess, I stepped into the boat closest to me. I’d just found my balance when the boat lurched into motion, jerking me down onto the slat of wood that served as a seat. The boats were moving in a single-file line, the tracks below clacking as they steered the boats into the tunnel ahead. A pair of saloon-style doors flung open, swallowing my boat into the tunnel.

  Feeling my way to the front of the boat, I climbed over the safety bar and onto the bow. I stayed there a moment, one hand anchoring me to the boat, while my other hand reached ahead, trying to grab the rear bar of the boat one up. I was a few inches short. I would have to jump. I scooted up the bow as far as I dared. I tucked my legs under me, then leaped, managing to skid onto the back of the next boat up.

  I allowed myself one moment of relief, then went back to work. Once again, I moved up the bow, with the intention of jumping boats all the way to the end of the ride. Rixon was bigger and faster, and he had a gun. My only hope of survival was to keep moving, to keep drawing out the time it took for him to catch me.

  I was on the next bow, preparing to jump, when a siren blasted and the sudden ill umination of a red light overhead blinded me. A skeleton dropped from the ceiling of the tunnel, smacking into me. I lost my footing and felt a wash of vertigo as I skidded sideways, overboard. Frigid water rushed through my clothes, closing over my head. Instantly I put my feet down, broke the water’s surface, and waded through the chest-deep broke the water’s surface, and waded through the chest-deep water back to the boat. Gritting my teeth against the cold, I clamped my hands around the boat’s safety bar and hauled myself back inside.

  Several loud shots ricocheted through the tunnel, one of the bullets whizzing past my ear. I dropped low in the boat, while Rixon’s laugh carried from a few boats back. “A matter of time,” he called.

  More lights were flashing overhead, and between the pulses of light, I could see Rixon making his way across the boats toward me.

  A faint roar sounded somewhere ahead. My stomach slid out from beneath me. I felt my concentration peel away from Rixon and shift to the spray of moisture in the air. My heart stopped for a half moment, then started pounding much too hard.

  Grabbing hold of the metal bar, I braced myself for the fall.

  The front of the boat tipped, then plunged over the waterfall. The boat splashed at the bottom, sending water spraying over the sides. The water might have felt cold, had I not already been drenched and shivering. I wiped my eyes dry, and that was when I saw a small maintenance platform carved out of the tunnel wall to my right. A door marked DANGER: HIGH VOLTAGE sat just back from the platform.

  I looked back at the waterfall. Rixon’s boat hadn’t fall en yet, and with only seconds to spare, I made a risky decision.

  Jumping over the side of the boat, I waded as quickly as I could to the platform, hoisted myself up, and tried the door. It opened, letting out the loud hissing and clanking of machines, hundreds of gears churning and grinding. I’d found the mechanical heart of the fun house, and the entrance to the underground tunnels.

  I closed the door most of the way behind me, leaving a thin crack to see out.

  With one eye pressed to the crack, I watched the next boat fly down the waterfall. Rixon was in the boat. He was leaning over the metal sidebar, searching the water. Had he seen me jump out? Was he looking for me? His boat continued down the track, and he eased himself overboard, landing feetfirst in the water. Using his hands to hold his wet hair out of his face, he searched the murky surface of the water. It was then that I realized his hands were empty. He wasn’t looking for me—he’d dropped the gun in the fall, and he was looking for it.

  The tunnel was dark, and I found it impossible to believe Rixon could see all the way to the bottom of the canal. Which meant he was going to have to feel his way to the gun. That would take time. Of course, I needed more than time. I needed a stroke of impossible luck. The police had to be combing the park by now, but would they think to look in the underbelly of the fun house before it was too late?

  I shut the door softly, hoping to find a lock on the inside, but there was none. Suddenly I wished I’d risked my chances making it out of the tunnel before Rixon, rather than circling back to hide. If Rixon came inside the service room, I was trapped.

  Ragged breathing came from my left, behind an electrical box.

  I swung around, eyes darting through the blackness. “Who’s I swung around, eyes darting through the blackness. “Who’s there?”

  “Who do you think?”

  I blinked against the shadows. “Scott?” I took several nervous steps backward.

  “I got lost in the tunnels. I took a door, and came out in here. ”

  “Are you still bleeding?”

  “Yeah. Surprisingly, I’m not completely drained yet. ” His words were choppy, and I could tell it took a lot of energy for him to speak.

  “You need a doctor. ”

  He gave a spent laugh. “I need the ring. ”

  At this point, I didn’t know how serious Scott was about getting the ring back. He was exhausted with pain, and I was pretty sure we both knew he wasn’t going to drag me out of here to hold as a hostage. He was weakened by the shot, but he was Nephilim. He would survive this. Working together, we had a chance at getting out. But before I could convince him to help me escape Rixon, I needed him to trust me.

  I walked over to the electrical box and knelt down beside him. He had one hand pressed against his side, just below his rib cage, stopping the flow of blood. His face was the
color of cornstarch, and the wasted look in his eyes proved what I already knew: He was in a lot of pain. “I don’t believe you’re going to use the ring to recruit new members,” I said quietly.

  “You aren’t going to force other people into the society. ” Scott shook his head, agreeing with me. “There’s something I need to tell you. Remember when I told you I was working the night your dad was shot?”

  I vaguely remembered him telling me he’d been at work when he got the call about my dad’s murder. “Where’s this going?” I asked hesitantly.

  “I worked at a convenience store called Quickies that was only a few blocks away. ” He paused, as if waiting for me to come to some grand conclusion. “I was supposed to follow your dad that night. The Black Hand told me to. He said your dad was on his way to a meeting, and I had to keep him safe. ”

  “What are you saying?” I asked in a voice as dry as chalk.

  “I didn’t follow him. ” Scott bowed his face into his hands. “I wanted to show the Black Hand he couldn’t order me around. I wanted to show him I wouldn’t be part of his society. So I stayed at work. I didn’t leave. I didn’t follow your dad. And he died. He died because of me. ”

  I slid my back down the wall until I was seated beside him. I couldn’t speak. The right words weren’t there.

  “You hate me, don’t you?” he asked.

  “You didn’t kill my dad,” I said numbly. “It’s not your fault. ”

  “I knew he was in trouble. Why else would the Black Hand want to make sure he made it to the meeting safe? I should have gone. If I’d followed the Black Hand’s orders, your dad would be alive. ”

  “It’s in the past,” I whispered, trying not to let this information cause me to blame Scott. I needed his help. Together, we could get out of here. I couldn’t allow myself to hate him. I had to work with him. I needed to trust him, and I needed him to trust me.

  “Just because it’s in the past doesn’t mean it’s easy to

  “Just because it’s in the past doesn’t mean it’s easy to forget. Less than an hour after I was supposed to follow your dad, my dad called with the news. ”

  Without meaning to, I made a small whimpering noise.

  “Then the Black Hand came into the convenience store. He was wearing a mask, but I recognized his voice. ” Scott shuddered. “I’ll never forget that voice. He gave me a gun and told me to make sure it never surfaced again. It was your dad’s gun. He said he wanted the police report to say your dad died an innocent and unarmed man. He didn’t want to put your family through the pain and confusion of knowing what really happened that night. He didn’t want anyone to suspect your dad was involved with criminals like himself. He wanted it to look like a random mugging.

  “I was supposed to toss the gun in the river, but I kept it. I wanted out of the society. The only way I saw that happening was if I had something I could use to blackmail the Black Hand.

  So I kept the gun. When my mom and I moved here, I left a message behind for the Black Hand. I told him if he came looking for me, I’d make sure the police got their hands on Harrison Grey’s gun. I’d make sure the whole world knew he had ties to the Black Hand. I swore I’d drag your dad’s name through the mud as many times as it took, if it meant I got my life back. I still have the gun. ” He opened his hands, and it dropped between his knees, clattering on the cement. “I still have it. ” A dull and furious pain ricocheted through me.

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